June 30, 2009

Thought for the day - Is the movie making process broken?

I'm a big fan of process (see my Process Cafe blog here) and an even bigger fan of movies, so naturally I was intrigued recently to be on the set of a huge Hollywood film being shot here in the UK. It was interesting to watch the whole process of movie making and try to reconcile that with the huge budgets that are being dropped on these movie.

The movie was basically a remake of a 1981 Laurence Olivier film and the scene I was involved in was a 15 second shot which entailed a quick stunt fight (three moves), a very short piece of dialogue (literally 2 lines) and an exit. In the shot were about 45 people overall, of whom only about 9 had any real action.

So how long did this scene take to shoot?

Bearing in mind that it was on a controlled indoor set with full 360 degree lighting that did not require resetting for each different camera set-up, the scene took about 16 hours to film. That's right, 16 hours for a 15 second shot. The reason for this was not immediately apparent. Sure, it was shot with many different camera set-up's (Camera on a crane, steadycam, a reverse, close up of the stunt men, close up of the protagonist etc.) and sure there were multiple takes for each shot (On everage there were 2 rehearsals and 6 takes per shot) but the main problem was the immense amount of time wasted through an inefficient process. For example prior to each take the fires on the set had to be lit (The set had 12 separate fire sources burning) and after each take they had to be extinguished. This took - on everage - 90 seconds. For the steadycam shots the cameraman had to load and unload his camera from the steadycam rig after each take (This took another 30 seconds or so - but this was never done until all the fires were lit). So at the moment each shot is taking 16 minutes purely in set-up and down time. That's without the actual time taken to run the scene, check the playback and feedback to the cast and crew what needed to be different for the next take. Multply this by 10 camera set-ups and you are already at almost 3 hours of wasted time.

Add to this the random movements of costume and make-up people who spend 'down-time' talking with each other but rush in to the scene after each take to 'touch-up' the actors and again you are looking at an inefficient process.

Considering that each hour of shooting on a movie of this size costs around $100,000 is it any wonder that Hollywood movies cost so much?

For more on Process and the impact of process on busines visit The Process Cafe.

Posted via web from The Posterous Cafe

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